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Know your Cousteaus: Diving deep into the family pool

Fabien Cousteau, grandson of the ocean explorer Jacques-Yves Cousteau. (Marc Evan for Plant A Fish.)

It's not your imagination: We're just swimming in Cousteaus these days -- so many dashing descendants of the late Jacques Cousteau, doing so much do-gooding for the patriarch's ocean causes.

Visiting Washington this week was Fabien Cousteau, the oldest grandchild of the legendary French ocean explorer/filmmaker, to launch his new nonprofit Plant a Fish (restoring wildlife in endangered waterways) and to lobby on Capitol Hill. He was joined by his filmmaking sister Celine -- and yes, she's the Cousteau in the June Vanity Fair, flashing a winsome smile and flat abs in a diving bikini -- and their father, Jean-Michel.

Jacques Cousteau in 1974. (AP)

But these are different Cousteau grandkids from Philippe Cousteau and Alexandra Cousteau, the equally glamorous brother-sister duo who have made D.C. the base for their enviro work -- her Blue Legacy International (water-quality issues), his EarthEcho International (educating youth) -- and cable documentaries. (See Philippe Cousteau's recent online discussion.)Those Cousteaus are cousins to the other Cousteaus. The two branches seem to have set sail on different paths but hey, c'est la vie!

"The doors to collaboration are open," Fabien told us, "but each of us has chosen a nook of the problem to address. Obviously, five Cousteaus are better than one."

Fabien, a square-jawed 40-something, beseeched a young policy wonk/socialite crowd at the Kalorama home of writer David Brock and restaurateur James Alefantis Monday night to open their wallets as "armchair divers" for his new cause. Plant a Fish launched this month, in time for the original Cousteau's 100th birthday, with Fabien leading Brooklyn schoolchildren in a dive to seed new oyster beds in the Hudson. Part of the goal, he said, is to engage communities with their natural surroundings: "We have to stop our bad habits, stop flushing bad chemicals from our lawns, our sewers. It's simple everyday actions that have consequences."

And what can we look for from a fourth generation of Cousteaus? There isn't one yet. "Overpopulation is a huge problem causing pollution," Fabien said. "We need to be a little more conscious about creating families and doing that in a sustainable way." Not that he's against being a parent someday; right now, "unfortunately, my schedule wouldn't allow it."

By The Reliable Source  |  June 8, 2010; 10:40 PM ET
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